The “Mystic Chalice” Trump Card Layout

I sometimes amuse myself by creating study tools for analyzing the interrelationship between the cards of the tarot, both in two dimensions and stacked in a three-dimensional overlay. This one uses an imaginative arrangement of the trump cards as its basis. I call it the “Mystic Chalice,” but have to admit it does look a little like the “Holy Hand Grenade” of Monty Python fame, and the up-down-and-sideways flow of the sequence reminds me of the small intestine with a couple of outlying organs. At other times I see a rosebud or thistle bud with petals. The most interesting things about it are the serendipitous appearance of numerous cross-pattern alignments among like cards and the accidental “pooling” of nearly all of the more dire cards in the lower right corner (someplace you wouldn’t want to linger). Examples of commonality are the Magician and the Sun (two instances of “1” in numerological terms); the Chariot and the Wheel of Fortune (both with a “wheel” motif, one related to Cancer and the other to Jupiter, which is exalted in Cancer); the Lovers and the Devil (both numerating to “6”); the Moon and the Devil (both with a reputation for deception); and the Fool, Justice and the Star (three elemental Air cards in a triangle). The pattern consists of several major components and a wealth of minor subcomponents that can be broken down into independent units for comparative analysis.

Mystic Chalice Scan.JPG


The full 22-card pattern can be used as a template (similar to the houses in a Lenormand Grand Tableau) on which to deal 22 trump cards from a second deck in random order to explore their paired interpretation. The same thing could be done with the entire 78-card population  (once again, I would use a second deck) to create a type of life-reading. It might be a good idea to assign context-sensitive “topic” cards as is done with Lenormand to make sense of the information overload.

The top-to-bottom-and-back-again progression from the Fool to the Sun reminds me of a fractured “Chutes-and-Ladders” game that can be “played” laterally as above, but also ascended or descended vertically or diagonally and traversed horizontally in either direction from any position to take in other card combinations.

The 12-card “egg” enclosing a 4-card “yolk” creates a perfect opportunity to use the 16 court cards in combination with the trumps to examine random expressions of personality type. I find it compelling that the central core of this sub-pattern consists of three modes of femininity (High Priestess, Empress and Strength) and the rather androgynous Hermit, which book-ends the similarly gender-neutral Fool at the extremities of the classical Pythagorean number series. It has a decidedly pagan flavor to it: the Maiden (Strength), the Mother (Empress) and the Crone (High Priestess), guided by the Shaman (Hermit). I like the imagery! There has to be something profound in there somewhere. Furthermore, their numbers add to 22, making this subset a microcosm of the larger layout.

The two 5-card chains from the Magician to the Wheel of Fortune can be populated with ten randomly-drawn cards from the pips for a kind of high-and-low reading scenario. The series adds to 55 and reduces numerologically to Ten and then back to One, making it a perfectly balanced platform for a pip-card exercise.

Judgement and the World bracketing the Fool suggest a funnel feeding the next cycle with the cumulative wisdom of the previous one.

The Hierophant/Lovers and Devil/Tower pairs form the “feet” of the chalice (or “petals” of the bud), but I have no idea what that might signify at this point, unless something can be made of the Emperor-Hierophant-Lovers-Chariot tetrad as a counterweight to the Hanged Man-Death-Devil-Tower grouping on the other side of the layout. I do notice that the first set adds to 22, another microcosm of the trump-card master pattern, while the second set totals 56 (the number of Minor Arcana cards in the deck, giving it a less exalted slant), which reduces to 11 suggesting the handing down of Justice. (As the Poison song goes, “Every rose has its thorn,” while the opposite quaternary responds with “Just as every night has its dawn,” and Strength and Temperance lie in the gap between the two discordant sentiments.)

If my counting is correct, there are 7 rows, 7 columns, 10 diagonals, 9 four-card squares, 11 four-card diamonds, 17 three-card vertical triangles and 18 three-card horizontal triangles with which to form discrete narrative vignettes. But I doubt anyone (even me) will ever get that far down into the “bug-dust” with this notion.

Pair of Buds.jpg

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